Buying a light meter

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by nelmur, Aug 13, 2017.

  1. I was given a Hasselblad 500cm from a friend that has sat for months on a shelf in my living room because I don't have a light meter, and haven't had the courage to take a stab at guessing exposures without one.

    After searching around in the forums for insight into which would be a good option, I decided to start my own thread to gather advice. I also shoot with a rangefinder and would like to find a great general purpose, standalone, meter (not a Lumu, please) that I can leave in my camera bag no matter what kind of shooting I am doing.

    In the quick research I've done, it looks like you can easily spend $300+ on a new meter. Ideally, I'd like to spend less. Whether that means going a pre-owned route, or simply choosing an option that's got fewer bells and whistles, I am open to it.

    Thanks in advance for any support the community can offer!
  2. AJG


    There are lots of choices out there, and you shouldn't need to spend $300 if you don't want to. I have had good luck with several Sekonic meters over the years, all that I've ever needed to do was replace batteries every 6 months to a year, and re-zero them after dropping them. As for what to buy, what kind of photography are you interested in? I do a lot of work in a studio with AC powered flash units, so my mainstay is a Sekonic L-718 incident/flash meter. For what I do, it is a great meter. For B&W 4x5 landscape work, I use a Soligor 1 degree spot meter. Used meters can be fine--try and avoid older CdS meters that may need non-existent batteries, but newer silicon cell meters are generally accurate and most will work with currently available batteries. One of the things I like about most Sekonic meters is that they are powered by easily found AA batteries. Good luck!
  3. You can try the "Sunny 16" rule as explained here:

    Sunny 16 rule - Wikipedia

    If you do purchase a used meter, be sure batteries are still available for the meter. Some meters from the 1980's and earlier took mercury batteries which are no longer manufactured. Although there may be current manufacture batteries that will fit mechanically, the voltage will be off. Light meters are VERY sensitive to voltage variations.

    I use a much older version of this meter with my Bronica S2A (The "poor man's" Hasselblad <grin>):\

    Gossen Sixtomat F2 Exposure Meter GO H264A B&H Photo Video

    It works fine for me.
  4. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    I have two Weston Master V selenium cell meters, which are still within half-a-stop of each other, and of the meters in my Pentax bodies - and of course they need no batteries. Used sensibly, and bracketing exposures, you should get great results, and if you use the Zone System, they enable you to place Zone 5 exactly where you want it without any tedious calculations.
  5. I've had a Gossen Luna Pro for a long time and I still use it. Yes, it's a CdS meter, and the mercury batteries that are specified for it aren't available. But, zinc batteries work in it, and the meter can be had for a lot less than $300. Given my experience with it, I would not write off a Luna Pro because of its age, cell type, or battery type.
  6. I used a lunapro for a long time and still have it, but in recent years I have primarily used a Gossen Digiflash. It does give me basic flash metering when I occasionally need it, and it is small so it doesn't take up much room in a camera bag or a pocket. Here is a link to the newer version of it: Gossen Digiflash Light Meter 2 GO 4007-2 B&H Photo Video
  7. DSCF6626-horz 3s x-horz 3zs.jpg Hello everyone. Like most who have 40+ years with the cameras, many light meters have come & gone. For the last 7 years I have been using "Classic Manual Cameras", mostly folders from the 50's but now FSU Fed-2's & Zorki's. Each camera now has a Gossen Pilot (selenium) in it's kit. Small but very accurate, they stay there without worry that the batteries are dead, or worse, ruptured & chewing up the contacts. . talk with me about a Pentax Spot Meter with "new" battery !. Get one of these Pilots off Ebay,($20-30 max) use it & see if it likes being a "Buddy" with the Hass. Bill
  8. SCL


    It is not rocket science, given the latitude of films and development techniques. If Sunny 16 is too complex for you, go here for a free exposure meter (actually based on sunny 16) which lays things out for you in simple scenes. I've kept one of these (or similar) in my bag for over 25 years and found that it works just fine. If you do decide to get a meter though, get one to read incident lighting....normal reflective meters require one to interpret the reflectivity of colors, which may be pretty easy for experienced photographers, but not so for newbies. Anyway here's the link:
  9. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I use a Pentax Spotmeter V and get excellent results. It meters 1 degrees, which really lets you "zoom in" for accurate readings of the most important area in the photo.
  10. There are the top of the line and contemporary Sekonics I don't know personally. They are all in one units offering spot & incident readings even as flash meters. I am (or was?) a long term Gossen user / fan. - Right now my mastersix requires a new 9V battery clip and my Lunasix F seems having a different issue; i.e. it doesn't meter but test the battery OK. I hope somebody will get them fixed.
    If you splurge: Buy a flash, not just continuous meter.
    I rarely used spot metering. - An incident reading is most of the time all I need and doing the subject "scanning" with a spot meter takes quite some time.
  11. I have a Weston Ranger 9 that has been converted for a modern battery at Quality Light Metrics. Very nice meter. I also use a Sekonic Studio Deluxe which does not require any battery. It also works very well. Lots of them for sale on eBay.
  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Have had a Sekonic Studio for decades -- still going strong.
  13. I'd avoid relics. Cross anything off your list that used mercury batteries. Same goes for ancient selenium cell models like Westons or GEs. Get the newest you can afford that suits what and how you will shoot. Sekonic models like the 308 and newer versions of the 398m are plentiful used and affordable. The 308 does incident and flash metering in a deck-of-cards size package and runs on one AA. The 398M is a selenium cell incident meter. For spot/incident/flash metering, the Sekonic 508/558/608 meters are tough to beat.
    Keep in mind that a "working" meter isn't necessarily an accurate meter. Given current film and processing costs, cheaping out on a meter really is a false economy.
  14. As a first step, decide which features you want, what you want the meter to be able to do. Then you can better narrow down the selection. For very basic metering, consider a smart phone app - they are accurate enough.
  15. I had a Weston V - 60 years ago. It was old when I got it. Older meters like a Gossen Lunasix are designed for use with mercury batteries, no longer available. Mine never worked right with the so-called "replacements." I wouldn't bother with a selenium or cadmium cell either - they break down with age.

    I have a Sekonic L-508 I bought in 1999, and I wouldn't trade it except for another like it. It has spot, incident and flash metering. Spot is for landscapes and incident essential for portraits, studio and closeups. It runs from a single AA battery, and I'm on my fourth or fifth one.s

    I have a couple of metered Hasselblad prisms, but the Sekonic is my go-to meter.
  16. Don't touch Weston fives or Euromasters. Chances are that the cell will be bad and the meter useless and irreparable. Out of every 10 I pick up and test, 9 are inaccurate and useless. The few working ones are consistently overpriced too.

    Get a used Minolta Autometer 3, 4 or 5 (F version adds flash metering). These take a reasonably easy to obtain 6v battery.

    If you prefer a batteryless meter, then the Sekonic "Studio" L-398 is still available new and plentiful secondhand.

    And there are smartphone lightmeter "apps" of various degrees of usefulness and accuracy.
  17. I agree about a Minolta Autometer, they're very accurate and easily available used, but my IVF takes an ordinary 1.5 volt AA battery.
  18. >>
    I was given a Hasselblad 500cm from a friend that has sat for months on a shelf in my living room because I don't have a light meter, and haven't had the courage to take a stab at guessing exposures without one.<<

    Months?? Impolite though this may sound ... Seriously, chief, your priorities are in the wrong order. Guessing exposure requires practice, not courage. Load up some Tri-X, use the sunny-16 rule, and just do it. So you mis-expose a few frames. Who the hell cares? That's how you learn. You don't have to show anybody the contact sheets.

    Guessing exposure with print film shot outdoors is about as difficult as driving a car with a stick shift. With a little practice, anyone can do it.
  19. If you want to practice the Sunny 16 Rule, set your digital camera for center weight metering and the ISO you wish to practice. Go out and try several different conditions - bright sunlight, shade overcast, etc. Make you exposure estimation using the Sunny 16 rule, then meter the scene with your digital camera and see how close you were. You don't even have to make a digital exposure much less waste film. The cost? A little electricity and shoe leather as you walk around.

    You may be surprised how quickly your estimate and the camera light meter agree. And if you do not wish to spend any money on a meter, just use your digital camera as the meter.
  20. "but my IVF takes an ordinary 1.5 volt AA battery."

    - Thanks for that Hector. I only own a 3F and didn't realise the later models took a different battery. A standard 1.5 v cell sounds even better, since the 6 v batteries are a bit expensive and don't last very long.

    I take the battery out of my 3F when it's not in use. It has a reputation as a bit of a battery-eater.

    BTW. The Sunny16 "rule" is nonsense outside of the tropics. Here at 51 degrees north, noon open sunlight varies by more than a stop between midwinter and midsummer; plus a slight haze or air pollution can drop hard-shadowed sunlight by another half stop at least.

    If you could just glance at the weather and guess an exposure, then there'd be no market for exposure meters!
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2017

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